LTO on High, Stams, and the Return of Neyah White and Brandywine Hartman to Chestertown

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While Chestertown foodies will need to demonstrate a bit more patience over the next few months, there are some promising signs that High Street will soon be the center of a dining revolution in the not too far future.

That’s because of the Mid-Shore return of Neyah White and his wife, Brandywine Hartman, who is heading up a massive effort to restore the building where Andy’s and the Lemon Leaf restaurant called home until a few years ago as well as the old Stam’s Drug Store down the street.

Neyah, a native of Kent County, very quickly became one of San Francisco’s best known and successful bartenders in the 2000s when he moved there after college. With a remarkable career launched at some of that city’s most popular bars, including the Clift Hotel, Bacar, Mecca, and Supper Club, and then opening up the legendary Nopalito and Nopa, Neyah swiftly became rose to the top of the mixed drinks hierarchy from almost the day he settled in the Bay Area. But his one consistent long-term plan from day one was to return to Chestertown and open up his own bar.

That plan worked well for his bride to be, Brandywine Hartman, who had created her own remarkable reputation as one of the Fog City’s most applauded pastry chefs. With her background working with two of the city’s two Michelin-rated restaurants, Brandywine found herself as one of the stars of the critically-acclaimed Bar Agricole in the SOMA part of town before the two plotted their exit from California to return to Neyah’s hometown in 2016.

Since that time, life has come with a new baby, a temporary pop-up bar where JR’s and Andy’s was located, and more permanent plans to take the reins of a entirely new bar once the High Street building has been renovated, and the re-establishment of Stam’s a few blocks down as the home of an ice cream parlor and pastry shop.

The Spy caught up with Neyah, Brandywine and their daughter Suzie, a few weeks ago to talk about their new quality of life and their long-term plans of putting Chestertown on the foodie map in the Mid-Atlantic region.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. For more information about LTO please go here.

 

Mid-Shore Food: Nighttime Surveillance on Sprout HQ’s Open House

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It was hard for our Spy to enter the new Sprout HQ on North Aurora a few nights ago. As might have been expected, grateful customers and public officials crowded into the organically pre-prepared and locally sourced meals new business location to the point where our agent couldn’t immediately enter its new hub. Relying on the art of outdoor surveillance techniques after years of specialized training, our Spy captured the festive scene through several windows.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about Sprout. please go here

Mid-Shore Food: Piazza’s Adopt-an-Alp Program 2018

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Piazza Italian Market is pleased to announce it will again participate in the Adopt-an-Alp program. This five-year-old program was created to generate awareness and appreciation for the endangered practice of transhumance and to highlight “real” Swiss cheeses. Piazza was one of three winners of this competition in 2016 which resulted in a free trip to visit alpine dairies for one member of the Piazza team. Owner Emily Chandler selected Brandy McKinney to represent the store.

Historically, many cheeses in Switzerland and other Alpine countries were produced via transhumance. As the summer sun warms the slopes, green grass sprouts, and the cows follow. Herdsmen were just behind the hungry cows, living and making cheese in small huts. While the idea of spending a solitary summer high up on a Swiss mountain with only animals for company might sound idyllic, life away from the comforts of home is not easy. Some of the huts that provide shelter have neither running water nor electricity. Remarkably, production of Alpage (cheese made from alpine-grazed cow’s milk) has increased over the last 5 years, arguably due to the Adopt-an-Alp program.

Piazza has selected to adopt Alp Trosen this year. Brandy McKinney of Piazza Italian Market visited Alp Trosen in 2017 and was struck by the humbleness of the operation and the quality of its cheese. Jakob Knaus Sr. stays on the alp for 9 weeks, most of the time alone. During this time, he lives in a one room chalet directly above the stables. There are few modern amenities at this 500-year-old hut, only a government-required filtered water system and solar panels. Jakob is required by the Alpkäse consortium to use a wood fire and a copper kettle to warm the milk for cheesemaking. These little details result in a sum that is more than its parts. Importer Caroline Hostetter describes Alp Trosen’s cheese as very flavorful and having “a lot of the earth” in it, even when young, and the rest of us can’t wait to try it!

To celebrate the arrival of the cheeses, there will be an Alp Dinner on Saturday, November 17th at Piazza. Featured chef Rosario del Nero will be using the Swiss alpkäse to cook dishes from his native alpine valley in Italy, the Valtellina. Tickets will become available in October.

Additionally, we will be celebrating the transhumance practice by unique events created by Jenn Martella, Special Events Coordinator. She will once again involve the community by reading at the children’s hour at the Talbot County branch libraries, a cowbell art contest for artists of all ages and Swiss jeopardy at the kick off dinner. Prizes will be awarded to the winners.

Adopt-an-Alp was created by Caroline Hostetter at Quality Cheese and it is officially supported by Schweizerischer Alpwirtschaftlicher Verband (SAV), (translates to Swiss Society of Alp Economy) a Swiss government agency for protecting and marketing Alp products including the platform http://alpkase.ch. All cheeses sold through the Adopt-an-Alp program are exclusively imported by Mifroma USA and distributed by Atalanta Corp.

For more information about the art contest or to make a reservation for the Alp Dinner please call Jennifer Martella at 410-253-1100.

Mid-Shore Food: Hair of the Dog is Starting to Sniff

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The Spy was on reconnaissance the other evening as we were checking out rumors of a new Vietnamese restaurant near Lowe’s. The good news is that our report can confirm that a Pho-themed venue is indeed happening. The bad news for the Spy that particular evening was that it wasn’t open yet.

But as we were swinging out of the shopping center, a quick look informed us that Hair of the Dog had made good of their promise to bust through a wall and open up the next door retail space to create a tasting room with an appropriate bar menu.

The Dog did well. It’s a remarkably open, pleasant space with very little doubt about its purpose. The tasting menu for both wine and craft beer seems endless, but just in case there is a credit card-run wine station where eight wines can be pumped out from a high tech encasement at various prices and sizes.

The food was good enough, which is a good thing. While the menu is creative to a point, none of the food offerings are designed to take center stage. It’s all about what one drinks.

 

 

Quick Takes: Yes, Virginia, there is a Indian Restaurant on the Mid-Shore

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The Spy has investigated many restaurant rumors that float through the Mid-Shore throughout the year, but when we received news that there was a possibility of an Indian restaurant in Cambridge, there was an instinctive reaction to label it “fake news.” Nonetheless, duty called, and we took a field trip last weekend to confirm or deny this existence of a venue for curry and are pleased to report that those reports have turned out to be entirely accurate.

Here are some of our findings:

1). The Indian restaurant goes by the name of Bombay Tadka and is located at 1721 Race Street in Cambridge.

2). The food is excellent and remarkably fresh.

3) Some staples of Indian cuisine are missing from the menu. Regrettably, Naan bread is not to be found along the favorite Tandoori chicken. It was also a disappointment that Tadka has yet to get their wine and beer license, which we hope will be resolved soon.

4) The service was attentive even during a busy night.

5). Like any new restaurant, there were a few hiccups and odd twists to our meal.  It is also safe to say that while the curry dishes were outstanding, they seemed remarkably different in taste and with presentation from your traditional curry house.

6) We conclude that Bombay Tadka is the “real deal” and a welcome addition to the Mid-Shore.

For more information about Bombay Tadka please go here

 

Mid-Shore Food: Chef Erin O’Shea at Mason’s Redux

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Just like any other hiring process for a significant leadership position, the search for the right executive chef with the proper credentials is paramount to the success or failure of that dining establishment. All serious searches start with the premise that a person’s background and education that will made an indelible impression on the community and its long-term reputation.

That is why the Spy has continuously found a way to interview some of the best Mid-Shore chefs who have made the Eastern Shore their culinary home. From the past brilliance of Jordan Lloyd in Easton, Patrick Fleming’s remarkable presence in Cambridge, or Kevin McKinney’s legacy in Chestertown, we have intentionally sought to understand better these chefs unique pedigree and history.

That was why the Spy was excited to catch up with Erin O’Shea, the new executive chef at Mason’s Redux on Harrison Street in Easton. To our surprise, Erin is no stranger to the Eastern Shore having attended school in Talbot County before heading south for a brief tenure at Texas A&M University. But while college life didn’t quite fit with her ambitions, the cooking scene in Houston did, and very shortly she headed back east to pursue her passion for food and cooking.

Last week, the Spy sat down to talk to Erin and those early years of training, her mentors, and the privilege to bring Easton’s beloved Masons back alive with her own unique touch.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Mason’s Redux please go here

Mid-Shore Food Notes: Yelp Says Marlena’s in Middletown is one of the Top New Restaurants in US

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The Spy was taken by surprise this morning when it was noted that Buzzfeed used Yelp’s Top USA list to highlight that Marlena’s Mediterranean Deli in Middletown, DE. was to become a destination restaurant.  Yelp determined Marlena’s standing by using an algorithm that takes into account the number of reviews and star ratings for every new restaurant.

We are eager to hear from Spy readers if they agree with this assessment. In the meantime, you can find Marlena’s on 10 West Main Street in downtown Middletown.

Twas the Day Before Dickens: Friday and Saturday Specials at Chester River Wine & Cheese

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Twas the Day Before Dickens…

…and all through the town, the creatures are stirring, and merry is the sound. Join us Saturday from 11-2 for a Ploughman’s Lunch in the garden entrance behind Chester River Wine & Cheese along Cannon St. We’re excited to partner with Chestertown’s well-loved award-winning restaurant, Luisa’s.

Warm up with us before strolling the shops and fun along High St. We’re serving a traditional farmer’s lunch of English Cheddar, Wensleydale, pickles, bread, and meat.  Luisa’s has prepared a ham and navy bean soup to warm your belly. As you eat you’ll be treated to the clip-clop of horse-drawn carriages as they leave from our neighbors at Cross St. Realtors. The full lunch is priced at $12 (including tax and beverage).

During the Ploughman’s Lunch, we’re also hosting our Saturday morning wine tasting.  In addition to our wines, we’re also serving a house made Lemonade and Lockbriar Farm’s Apple Cider. Wines we’re sampling include:

  • Clara C Prosecco Brut – Fresh, delicate, balanced on the palate and light in alcohol with a long fruity finish. Perfect as an aperitif, ideal with fish, it goes extremely well with hors-d’oeuvres and light first courses.
  • Les Trois Couronne Cotes du Rhone – Another nice wine from a terrific vintage.  A round wine with aromas of black fruits, spices, and licorice. This is a full-bodied wine with rounded elegant tannins and a long finish with notes of fruits and spices.
  • JH Andresen White Port – Highly aromatic and complex, blending notes of dried apricot, pound cake, hazelnut, but with a freshness and vivacity. That freshness continues on the palate, with a beautiful acidity and creaminess, resulting in a stylish and distinctive wine.

Join us for First Friday this evening. We’re offering a half-case special on our wines and 15% off select bottles. In Welcome Home we’re offering 10% off plush bathrobes by Pine Cone Hill.

 

Mid-Shore Food: Piazza Grows at Talbottown

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After nine years, Emily Chandler’s Piazza Italian Market had more customers than space. Sliding just a 100 yards around from their original location, Piazza opened their new expanded market with a brand new interior. The fine foods and friendly, helpful staff are the same. But, there is more room to look around and a nice section for dining.

While actually making sandwiches, Emily took time to visit with one of our spies about the new location….